A vision to make Missouri more entrepreneur-friendly moved closer to reality Monday as state legislators passed a first-in-the-nation Right To Start Act, advancing the bill to the Senate on an 85-69 vote.
“We made progress today to make Missouri a state that welcomes risk takers, the crazy ones, who want to build the next generation of inspiring businesses,” said state Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, who introduced and sponsored the legislation.
Who is Travis Fitzwater?
Travis Fitzwater — who founded Fitz Media Productions in 2008 — serves as vice-chairman of the House workforce development committee, as well as sitting on economic development, legislative oversight and special innovation and technology committees.
A four-term state lawmaker, he previously championed popular STEM and computer science legislation that ultimately was vetoed, reworked and later signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson. (That advocacy helped make Fitzwater a finalist for the KC Tech Council’s 2019 Tech Champion of the Year award.)
The Jefferson City-area lawmaker celebrated the passage of HB1202 on Twitter and offered a shout-out to entrepreneur advocate Victor Hwang and the Right To Start campaign, which helped champion the bill.
Hwang called the legislation “the most comprehensive pro-entrepreneur state legislation proposed in memory … maybe ever.”
“The Right To Start Act boosts thousands of new businesses starting in garages, basements, and kitchens statewide: Corner stores. Urban food truck owners. Rural farmers. Main Street shops. Garage startups,” Hwang said in a series of his own Twitter posts. “New businesses are job makers. They produce almost all job growth and GDP. They fight inequality and poverty. They lift incomes for entire communities. They make vital goods and services.”
Among the bill’s most significant pieces, according to highlights from Hwang:
- Dedicates 5 percent of government contracts to small new businesses, so they can get their foot in the door to grow and create jobs.
- Bans non-compete restrictions for most people, so they are free to leave potentially dead-end jobs and pursue their dreams. In other states this change has raised wages by as much as 6 percent.
- Lowers taxes for new businesses, putting cash in the pockets of self-starters creating jobs and wealth for their communities.
- Creates an official Office of Entrepreneurship, to assist and coordinate future statewide policies that support entrepreneurs and new businesses.
Click here to explore the text of the Right To Start Act.
The Show-Me State bill – which Hwang called a model for other states — is expected to be just the first Right To Start legislation introduced and advanced as the Right To Start organization continues a nationwide push.
“Missouri has shifted support for starters showing that legislatures can ecosystem build to foster robust environments not just for select segments and sectors,” said Cecilia Wessinger, a Tulsa-based entrepreneurial ecosystem activator, founder of Mass Collaboration and board member of the Startup Champions Network.
Click here to read Right To Start’s “Field Guide for Policymakers.”